An optimistic look at the Patriots’ 2024 NFL Draft class

The draft was this past weekend, and the truth is, we won’t know for a few years whether these guys are a good pick. So the best thing you can do is take a measured approach and just be happy that the New England Patriots tried to address some problem areas without knowing if those guys are actually going to make the team better, right?

Absolutely not! What kind of fun would that be?

For my latest two articles I decided to go in a slightly different direction than usual. I’ve already given my grades for all of these picks, so I decided to take a look at the optimistic and pessimistic views for each of the Patriots picks.

The optimistic view is that these guys are all great, but I’m going to try to be a little more specific than that. Whether you liked the choice or not, hopefully this article and its counterpart will give you some ammunition in any conversations you have about the concept.

Let’s get into it.

QB Drake Maye (North Carolina)

Maye has all the tools to become an elite quarterback in the NFL. He has a rocket arm, knows how to pull something off when he needs to, and has the athleticism to be a difference maker on the ground as well. If he can limit some of the inaccuracies, and do a little better job reading a defense and sticking to the read before moving on, he has a chance to be special.

But how special are we really? I envision a player similar to Justin Herbert, but who brings a little more to the table in the running game.

He is already advanced in targeting the deep center of the field. He also had 20 more big throws than No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams over the past two seasons. Of his 66 – yes, you read that right, 66 – big throws over the last two years, only six were considered turnover-worthy plays. Not only is Maye willing to push the ball down the field, but he does it without creating turnovers, which is quite rare.

Whether he will achieve Herbert-like realms is up for debate. However, given the splash plays and arm talent, he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, especially if – unlike the Los Angeles Chargers QB – he can actually win a few playoff games.

WR Ja’Lynn Polk (Washington)

Polk was a wide receiver in Washington and has a knack for making tough catches in traffic. He’s not the fastest, but he makes good use of his leverage and uses spacing to get open to coverage. He is a very strong cover in man coverage and can vertically threaten a cornerback even without that elite speed.

If he refines his route running a little bit and improves his ability to quickly find the weak spot in zone coverage, he could be a very good receiver in this league. Even in the best-case scenario, I don’t think he’ll ever be a top receiver in the league, but I can definitely see him as a strong contributor and a high-end WR2. His play speed is faster than his timed speed, and the things he excels at are the same things Drake Maye excels at. It’s a good match.

OT Caedan Wallace (Penn State)

The Patriots are in desperate need of a left tackle and Wallace has the athletic profile to play that position. He has a lot of experience and also made a leap in consistency this past season, suggesting he has some room to grow. It’s a bit of a projection that he’ll be able to play this position, but if he can, this has a chance to be a good pick.

G Layden Robinson (Texas A&M)

Yes, the Patriots used four picks in the top 150 in the last two drafts for interior offensive linemen, but they clearly don’t feel good about where they are at the position. Robinson is a powerful guard who can take guys out of their spots. He excels in the running game, needs some help in the passing game, but is a guy with a lot of experience who can step in and compete for a starting job this season.

WR Javon Baker (Central Florida)

The Patriots got one of the most explosive receivers in the draft at pick 110. Baker had five receptions of more than 50 yards, and 21 of more than 20 yards last season. He may not have top speed, but he is a great route runner and will simply outrun muscle defenders for the ball.

Baker has enough speed to push corners vertically, and has a tendency to leave corners in the dust with his breaks. He is a perfect X-receiver for the Patriots, and – like the aforementioned Ja’Lynn Polk – excels at what Drake Maye does best, which is allowing them to work well together. His offense, along with Polk, will give Maye two deep targets that are also reliable.

CB Marcellas Dial (South Carolina)

The Patriots had a great defense last year, but they have needs in the secondary. Finding a player who can help there can be huge. Dial isn’t the biggest guy, but he was still a productive outside cornerback at South Carolina. He also appears to be a guy who can make the transition to deep safety, and if he does, he could make an impact for the Patriots as soon as this season.

QB Joe Milton III (Tennessee)

This might be the nicest pick the Patriots have made in 20 years. Milton may not be accurate and may never be a viable NFL quarterback, but he’s certainly electric. His arm strength blows you away, and while he isn’t always accurate, his willingness to just launch balls to the moon makes for a fun watch.

The unique thing about Milton’s long passes is that they are not high arc throws either. They are typically delivered on a frozen rope, sometimes 40 yards away in the field. He’s also a good athlete, running a 4.62 40-yard dash at his pro day. Combine that with his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, and you have a guy who will be tough to beat on the road

He needs a lot of development, but the opportunity to get a guy talented enough to be your backup, or eventually trade for draft capital, is too tempting to pass up this late in the draft.

TE Jaheim Bell (Florida State)

Yes, Bell is too short to fit a traditional tight end mold. Yes, he’s not good enough to be used as a full-back either.

However, he is a very good athlete for his size, and in the right system he could absolutely help a team with some situational details. He’s good with the ball in his hands and, if used correctly, could do what Jonnu Smith (remember him?) did for Atlanta last season. It all comes down to usage, but in the seventh round you’re looking for players who bring something to the table that can set them up for success with some growth and coaching, and Bell fits that bill.

Clearly, Patriots fans are hoping the optimistic view of each pick will be the outcome. But knowing what the design looks like will at least put some on the pessimistic side.

What will decide how successful this draft will be is which players end up on which side of this spectrum.

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